SSPCA consultation responses: the hypocrites laid bare

sspca logoA few days ago, the Scottish Government published (some of) the responses they’d received to their public consultation on whether the SSPCA should be given increased powers to allow them to investigate more wildlife crimes than their current remit allows.

As a quick recap, the SSPCA’s current authorisation (under animal welfare legislation) limits their investigations to cases that involve a live animal in distress. The proposed new powers would also allow them to investigate wildlife crimes under the Wildlife & Countryside Act legislation, e.g. where the victim is already dead, and also incidents where a victim may not be present (e.g. an illegally-set pole trap). See here for further detail.

Note: the Government’s consultation document stated: ‘The SSPCA has indicated that they would not require, or use, powers to stop and search people or powers to arrest people’. This statement is important, and you’ll see why later in this blog post.

We knew, in the long three-year lead up to the consultation, that certain organisations would object to the new increased powers, so it wasn’t any great surprise to read the majority of the responses, although there were a couple of surprises. Here is a list of which organisations were in support of the new powers, and which were not (NB: the responses of ‘individuals’ are excluded from this analysis).

Those in support:

Buglife, Durham Bird Club, Scottish Badgers, OneKind, RSPB, Scottish Raptor Study Group, Animal Concern Advice Line, Law Society of Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, League Against Cruel Sports, National Trust for Scotland.

Those not in support:

Altnaharra Estate, Glenfalloch Estate, Alvie & Dalraddy Estates, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, Scottish Land & Estates, Songbird Survival, BASC Scotland, GWCT, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Craigswood Game & Deer Management, Scottish Association for Country Sports, National Working Terrier Federation, NFU Scotland, Bat Conservation Trust, Scotland for Animals, Police Scotland.

Those not expressing an opinion:

COPFS, British Deer Society.

The surprises, for us at least, were the Bat Conservation Trust and Scotland for Animals. We would have predicted both of these organisations to have been in the ‘supportive’ camp. Their explanations (as put forward in their formal responses) are a bit bizarre but there you go.

Anyway, those two anomalies aside, it’s pretty obvious that the huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ brigade, who all claim to be dedicated to stamping out wildlife crime, are united in their opposition to the SSPCA being given more powers to er, help stamp out wildlife crime. Oh, and Police Scotland is also opposed. Between them all, they’ve put forward a number of similar (actually, mostly identical) reasons to explain their opposition. Those reasons include:

  • Accountability (the SSPCA is a charity, not a public body and therefore it’s not publicly accountable);
  • Impartiality (the SSPCA campaigns for a ban on snares so therefore couldn’t possibly remain impartial when investigating crimes involving snaring);
  • There’s apparently no need for “radical new powers” because there has been a “significant reduction” in wildlife crime;
  • Training & competence (SSPCA inspectors don’t undergo the same “rigorous training, selection & vetting” as police officers so they shouldn’t be allowed to undertake criminal investigations);
  • SSPCA inspectors don’t have access to forensics, DNA and fingerprint databases, or the Scottish Intelligence Database, which would compromise their investigations and also compromise any on-going police investigation of which the SSPCA may be unaware);
  • The SSPCA is “already stretched” and couldn’t cope with more investigations;
  • Giving the SSPCA more powers amounts to “un-official policing” and “quasi-policing”;
  • Only the police should investigate crime;
  • Giving them more powers would “destabilise trust” between PAW partners;
  • The SSPCA is “unequipped” to deal with RIP(S)A regulations (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which puts strict controls on when surveillance operations are permitted and how they are to be conducted. These regulations only apply to public bodies, e.g. police, customs);
  • There may be resistance from the public, who view these powers as a traditional remit of the police;
  • There is concern about whether the SSPCA is subject to the Scottish Crime Reporting Standard;
  • It’s just not fair.

The last reason isn’t explicitly stated in the consultation responses but it’s pretty much the subtext of what is being said.

Now, to the casual observer, many of these explanations may sound reasonable and legitimate. “Yeah, only the police should investigate wildlife crime, not a civilian”, right? Wrong.

hypocrisyWhat all of these huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ organisations (and Police Scotland) conveniently failed to mention was the role, and powers, of the water bailiff.

What’s a water bailiff?

A water bailiff is someone appointed by a District Salmon Fishery Board (DSFB) (or sometimes by Scottish Ministers if a DSFB doesn’t exist in a particular area) to enforce certain national fisheries legislation, amongst other duties, and their remit includes tackling (fish) poaching. Poaching is one of the six national wildlife crime priorities.

There are 41 DSFBs in Scotland, and the members of these Boards are predominantly land owners and/or those who own propriety fishing rights. We’d thoroughly recommend you check out the Board membership lists of some of these DSFBs (using the link above) – there are some familiar names, including certain estate owners, certain estate factors, and certain SLE Directors and representatives! Representatives of other bodies (e.g. SNH, SEPA, National Park Authority) may be invited to join the Boards, but in a non-voting capacity.

The water bailiff is basically appointed to serve the interests of the landowners and fishing rights proprietors. The role of the water bailiff is “virtually that of a policeman”, according to the Water Bailiff training manual. Water bailiffs have statutory powers of entry, search, seizure, and arrest. Yes, you read that correctly – water bailiffs have the authority to arrest someone, and they are also authorised to use handcuffs during the process of arrest. Some may also carry batons!

To become a water bailiff, all you have to do is to read the Water Bailiffs manual and sit a written test based on your knowledge of the training manual. That appears to be it. However, passing this ‘test’ is apparently not a legal requirement; it is simply a policy in the DSFB’s Code of Good Practice.

So, in light of this information, let’s now re-visit the excuses reasons given by the huntin’ fishin’ shootin’ brigade (and Police Scotland) as to why they object to the SSPCA being given wider powers.

  • Accountability. Water bailiffs are accountable to DSFBs, which are not public bodies, in the same way the SSPCA is not a public body. The huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ brigade don’t seem to have a problem with the lack of public accountability of water bailiffs/DSFBs, just with the lack of accountability of the SSPCA. Interesting.
  • Impartiality. Water bailiffs are acting in the interests of landowners and fishing proprietors, who have undeniable vested interests, thus, it can be argued that they are not impartial. The SSPCA may well campaign for a ban on snaring but that hasn’t affected their professional ability to successfully investigate crimes involving the illegal use of snares. Here’s one they did just this week.
  • The proposed new powers for the SSPCA are not “radical” – nowhere near. They’re merely a small extension to the powers the SSPCA have been using (successfully) for over a hundred years. ‘Radical’ powers might include, say, giving them the power of arrest without a warrant, and authorising the use of handcuffs without a warrant. Now that’s radical.
  • There has not been a “significant reduction” in wildlife crime. Far from it.
  • Training & competence. Water bailiffs do not undergo the same “rigorous training, selection and vetting procedures” as police officers, even though they have similar powers to the police, and far greater powers than those of the SSPCA, who, remember, “do not require, or use, powers to stop and search people or powers to arrest people”. Interesting that the huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ brigade (and Police Scotland) don’t object to such a weak training regime for water bailiffs.
  • Water bailiffs don’t have access to forensics, DNA and fingerprint databases, or the Scottish Intelligence Database, which doesn’t appear to compromise their investigations or compromise any on-going police investigation of which the water bailiff may be unaware.
  • The SSPCA does in fact have access to forensics, and this tool is frequently used in badger-baiting and dog-fighting investigations, when animal DNA evidence has been used by them to secure a conviction.
  • If the SSPCA was ‘already stretched’, they probably wouldn’t have offered their services, free of charge to the public purse, to investigate a wider suite of wildlife crimes. How thoughtful, though, of the huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ brigade (as well as Police Scotland) to show their concern for SSPCA officers’ welfare!
  • The role of the water bailiff is arguably “quasi-policing” and “un-official policing” and yet the huntin shootin’ fishin’ brigade (and Police Scotland) don’t seem to have a problem with that.
  • Water bailiffs investigate wildlife crime (well, poaching, which many would argue is more about stealing than anything else) so their argument that (wildlife) crime should just be a police matter presumably means the huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ brigade will be calling for the  withdrawal of water bailiff powers in the very near future.
  • There is no trust between PAW partners to “destabilise”.
  • Water bailiffs are not equipped to comply with the RIP(S)A legislation because DSFBs are NOT public bodies. However, water bailiffs routinely undertake ‘surveillance’ operations, and indeed their training manual explains how to set an ‘ambush’ for suspected poachers! The huntin shootin’ fishin’ brigade don’t seem to have a problem with this.
  • There doesn’t seem to be much (any?) resistance from the public towards water bailiffs enforcing the legislation.
  • Are water bailiffs subject to the Scottish Crime Reporting Standard? We doubt it.

So there you have it. The hypocrisy, and the hypocrites, have been exposed.

We await with great interest the Minister’s decision on increasing the SSPCA’s investigatory powers.

40 thoughts on “SSPCA consultation responses: the hypocrites laid bare”

  1. Pretty much confirms for me that the raptor persecution criminals are NOT, as is claimed, a small minority. Otherwise why would there be this obvious war between those for and those against raptor persecution and wildlife crime

    1. Yes, I honestly cannot think of a single reason why so many of those individuals, estates and organisations that are supposedly interested in stamping out wildlife crime, would have so much opposition to a proposal that would help combat such crimes.

      I’m beginning to think that they are actually very happy that raptor persecution exists.

  2. Yeah, the Bat Conservation, and Scotland for Animals people not supporting it was a real “JK Rowling” moment, their lack of support may do more damage than all the responses of the usual suspects in the anti-camp put together. Shocking, simply shocking.

  3. I am a member of the Bat Conservation Trust, and am most surprised that they have not backed the extra powers proposed for the SSPCA. I will of them, an explanation. What has astounded me is the lack of support from Scotland for Animals, which is a radical animal rights group.

    Thank goodness that RPS exists to act as a reliable information centre, and campaigner for curbing the killing of birds of prey. It had to come into existence to match the overwhelming power of the shooting estates, and the obvious grip they have over the various institutions that govern Scotland.

    With a greater political awareness taking place, I think it is time that the people of Scotland were encouraged to learn more about the inadequacies of land management/use, and that in a humanely run country, the industrial killing of birds and mammals for sport has to be curtailed. The landscape has been under the control of so few for centuries, and nothing has been done to take that control way, and introduce a more humane and public participative way of creating a more biologically diverse countryside. We witness examples of police and political laxity every day in the UK, due to various interests being uncomfortable over their past misbehaviour entering the public domain. We have been brainwashed to believe that the gamekeeper, the laird and landowner, the farmer, have all worked together to give us a wonderful recreation area with bountiful wildlife, and also an easy access. The truth has been that, if it had not been for the intervention of many conservation and animal welfare/rights groups, we would have been lucky to have had much to look at. Without much challenge, millions have been shunted to such interests, and there have been cases of gross despoliation of the landscape with inappropriate forestry, and bulldozed roads for easy hunting access. Of course there are landowners and farmers who have excelled at respecting the law regarding wildlife protection, and who have adopted schemes with conservation groups to enhance or create habitats for various species of butterfly and bird. Being absolute will not get us anywhere, for what is needed is a realisation by the cohorts of shooting, is that an impasse will only lead to serious problems getting out of control, and a situation develop, that benefits no one.

    The role of the police and those who administer the law, have not created an impression of confidence that they have been dealing effectively with wildlife crime. We need a huge public outcry for an impartial investigation into what has been happening with regard to the state of affairs we have arrived at. The SSPCA is necessary to augment any police activity with birds of prey killing. The blood sports brigade have had too much influence and power to prevent justice being done up till now. There has to be some form of intelligent life on that side of the fence, to recognise that change will have to come.

    1. This information regarding the authority and scope of water bailiffs powers says quite a lot about the role of police scotland forgetting to inform us of an unaccountable body with such powers, and the land owners and their friends pretending to be concerned about an unaccountable charity having extra powers.

    2. “We have been brainwashed to believe that the gamekeeper, the laird and landowner, the farmer, have all worked together to give us a wonderful recreation area with bountiful wildlife, and also an easy access. The truth has been that, if it had not been for the intervention of many conservation and animal welfare/rights groups, we would have been lucky to have had much to look at.”

      And who would be responsible for the brainwashing? Yes, that’s right, the biased UK establishment media. Just as I was suggesting a few days ago!

      1. I certainly agree with you Marco with regard to the whole UK establishment and media, brainwashing the public with regard to wildlife crime. Absolutely disgraceful.

    3. I agree with just about everything Greer says, although would go a bit further and say that I’d like ALL killing of animals for sport (i.e. sadistic pleasure) to be excised from civilised society. Sadly I don’t see that happening in my lifetime, but it is a worthwhile aspiration for future generations.

      There are several facts I don’t see represented in the discussion. For example, is it not clear that this proposal is being keenly promoted primarily as a fiscal cost-cutting exercise? Shunting off criminal investigation to a charity seems an obvious way to reduce public spending on policing wildlife crime. Also, what about the steady decline of public funding for Countryside Ranger Services, another set of professionals whose duties include the prevention and reporting of wildlife crime? Then there is the SSPCA. We all know some very fine front line troops in that organisation, but are they really corporately experienced enough to replace what the police SHOULD be doing in this field? This seems to me to be almost impossible without providing significant grant aid for training and extra recruitment.

      I hope I’m proved wrong, but can’t help being cynical. I’ve also rather given up hope that RSPB will ever take a firmer line in this debate. Those of us who understand the mindset of the hunting and shooting brigade, and the pressure placed on gamekeepers to deliver the goods, know that the only way to stop persecution of harriers on the present scale is to stop grouse shooting.

  4. Here’s a classic from the SLE consultation response:

    “We could only support changes to the current powers of SSPCA staff if they went through exactly the same training and vetting as Police officers, and always operated under control of the police, who would have to be directly accountable for what is done by the SSPCA staff under their command”.

    Hypocrisy on steroids.

    Sounds like SLE really really really don’t want the SSPCA to get increased powers. Can’t think why.

    1. There is a highly trained department within the SSPCA who investigate and specialise in such issues as wildlife crime and who are made up on the whole of ex-police officers with that training SLE is talking about and believe us, they are far more accountable and transparent than any police officers we have had to work with when reporting wildlife crime incidents. Over the years we have spoken with a number of police officers, including officers who work full time on wildlife issues, and they always tell us that they do not get any training to carry out the extra roll as a Wildlife Crime Officer. The police officer applies for the job, they get it and that’s it. As genuine as they may be to want to help to combat wildlife crime they will get no additional training, no extra equipment. Kind of vital if they are to tackle wildlife crime effectively, wouldn’t you think?

      There is nothing more frustrating when we find an incident related to wildlife crime in a remote area and call the police only to be told that there is nobody that can attend at that time or they are confused about exactly where we are because they do not work with grid references or use GPS devices, not even the wildlife officers.

      It really is this simple and we at Project Raptor base this on a lot of real in the field experience. Simply, with respect, the police are not very capable and the SSPCA are more than capable when it comes to responding, attending and investigating cases of wildlife crime. Why? Because the SSPCA do this job every day, are trained and well equipped. As we have said, the police do not get any training whatsoever and we have seen for ourselves at PR the consequences of this. Raptors found dead and police alerted but the police don’t attend for sometimes weeks and by this time the bird is either gone or the carcass is so decomposed that there is a good chance that any evidence of foul play has been lost. This is not uncommon. For whatever reason, in some parts of Scotland, dead raptors that have been retrieved are taken to airports for x-rays when you would think that they should be taken directly to a vet to be examined and x-rayed by a professional who knows what they are looking at. We have been involved in an incident where the wildlife officer, who we know shoots, has attended a scene where suspect cage traps, believed to be targeting raptors, have been found and this officer has left the gamekeeper with one trap and removed the other trap, giving the reason that he simply could not be bothered to take both traps down from the hill. During a separate incident very recently we were told by a wildlife officer that they allowed gamekeepers (The suspects) to assist them with a search for a dead raptor that had been reported on a shooting estate, a shooting estate with a notorious reputation for raptor persecution. Kind of like raiding a house of a suspected drug dealer and asking the home owner to give a hand looking for the drugs. We could go on.

      There is no doubt that police officers do a commendable job out on the streets, within the towns and cities of Scotland but in our experience they are lost when it comes to an incident of wildlife crime, particularly when the incident has occurred in a remote area of the countryside which is often the case. They also seem to spend far more time and resources on tackling poaching than they do on other non-related wildlife crime issues. It would be interesting to see how many police hours and how much money is spent on issues related to poaching in relation to investigating and responding to other issues such as raptor persecution. No doubt, there are some dedicated and genuinely committed wildlife crime officers out there, we know there are, but I guess all we are saying is that it is blatantly clear that with a little more power given to the SSPCA that this would not only help these officers and allow them to get on with other duties but also and most importantly, in time, we would begin to see more convictions for wildlife crime. That would only be a good thing, wouldn’t it?

      It really makes you think doesn’t it, why on earth would a police force, with their on-going cuts in staff and resources, refuse the assistance of an agency which have proved themselves time and time again, over many years, to be nothing but a professional team of people who not only carry out their duties in the most professional way but are accountable for every action they take, especially when it comes to investigating crimes against animals and appearing in court as witnesses. It doesn’t take a genius to know why those with shooting interests would rather keep the status quo but why the police?

      The bailiff story here surely can only blow any argument out of the water by those against the SSPCA receiving a few more powers. Well done again RPS for bringing this to everybody’s attention. Let us hope Mr Wheelhouse is reading this blog. If not then we are sure that it will be brought to his attention and will have some influence in his final decision. It is scandalous if the SSPCA do not get the powers they seek and even more so now after learning this story about the country estate police or more commonly known as the water bailiff.

      1. Well done project raptor some good points well made.

        Surely this whole issue is not about taking anything away from the police as they will not be debarred from investing wildlife crime but actually giving the police additional resources. I.e. specialist sspca staff.
        What’s not to like about that?

        1. This is a great advert for the SSPCA, but unless things have changed dramatically in recent years, it does not concur very well with my own experience of that organisation. How big is the “highly trained department”, and why in fifty years have I rarely heard of the SSPCA becoming involved in wildlife crime issues – is my local area unusual in that respect?

          I don’t like to criticise because I know of many caring SSPCA workers who carry out their core work with great dedication. On the other hand I have some experience of more senior officers which has not exactly filled me with confidence. I should stress that this view may well be influenced by unfortunate encounters with a minority. Neither am I a fan of the police, but we all know that those sympathetic and professional officers who do care are often hampered by negative management or lack of resources. There is also a problem in a few cases of known shooting enthusiasts being appointed as Wildlife Crime Officers because of their ‘knowledge’ in the field – we all know what this can lead to.

          Like other contributors to this discussion, I could recount many cases known to me of the police failing miserably to enforce the law relating to wildlife crime. Because of this I can understand the frustration being expressed, but in my opinion the support for extra powers being afforded to SSPCA is highly optimistic, and possibly a convenient diversion from the main systemic problem needing resolved. Time will hopefully prove me wrong. In the meantime I have maximum respect for everyone fighting to save and protect our raptors.

          Finally, it would be useful to know who “Project Raptor” are and if they are directly related to SSPCA. I’m not implying any concern or any other disagreement with the content of their post, it would just help to clarify where they are coming from, what are their aims and objectives, who supports them and where can I get an application form?

  5. Hypocrisy, hypocrisy, nothing but hypocrisy in the whole rotten bunch of them. It’s OK for them to employ water bailiffs to catch and arrest a few poachers taking fish from the rivers, but quickly cry foul when an attempt is made to employ the SSPCA to put a stop to their rampant totally illegal wildlife persecution activities. If the SSPCA are not to be allowed then they should not be allowed to use their untrained water bailiffs in a policing role, time to remove their powers !!!

  6. Not surprised that most people responding conveniently forgot about water bailiffs. Water bailiffs are ‘chaps’, dontcha know, so of course they should have powers of arrest, carry ‘cuffs, etc. Those SSPCA Johnnies probably haven’t been to the appropriate school of forelock-tugging. Civilisation as we know it may end if they’re allowed additional powers.

  7. “Training & competence (SSPCA inspectors don’t undergo the same “rigorous training, selection & vetting” as police officers so they shouldn’t be allowed to undertake criminal investigations);

    SSPCA inspectors don’t have access to forensics, DNA and fingerprint databases, or the Scottish Intelligence Database, which would compromise their investigations and also compromise any on-going police investigation of which the SSPCA may be unaware);

    Giving the SSPCA more powers amounts to “un-official policing” and “quasi-policing

    Only the police should investigate crime;”

    All those years as a Trading Standards Officer investigating & prosecuting crimes, I had training but not the same training as Police.

    And the Police are hardly accountable – any attempt to question their operational decisions by politicians is hidden by a veil of ‘Operational Choices are down to the Chief Constable’.

  8. Baffled by the Bat Conservation Trust’s position I wrote to them asking for an explanation. I was directed to the hard to follow response to the Scottish Government (response number 224) which, in my opinion, quickly lost contact with the facts on the ground and descended into some quasi legal/ideological justification. The lady who answered my email was good enough to simplify it for me and here is what she said,
    ” ……….. we are concerned about the impact that this sort of change would have on the investigation of wildlife crime by police officers, and the subsequent prosecution of these offences.” (Does the BCT know anything at all about the state of affairs in Scotland in regard to the police and raptor persecution? )
    Could someone help me here and give me some concrete examples of how this situation might manifest in real situations as I am still at a loss as to why they opposed the extra powers being granted.

    1. Looking at it obtusely, I think I can see where they are coming from. If enforcement becomes a joint responsibility, with both the Police and SSPCA having equal rights, you might find the Police take a step back and say ‘That’s an SSPCA responsibility’. I have seen that before in other areas of joint enforcement. I’ve even heard Police officers tell people something is a ‘civil’ matter because the Police are not the primary enforcement/reporting body, even although it was a criminal offences

      1. Thanks Dave. I still fail to see why not supporting more powers for the SSPCA would in any way be helpful . What they are talking about is a technicality which could be rectified by negotiation in my opinion. It’s a “Once bitten, twice shy, sort of thing” which could be raised when stoking the “t”‘s and dotting the “I”‘s.

        1. Wish I could share your optimism, George. What next, St John Ambulance volunteers performing appendectomies and other routine surgical procedures? (This feeble attempt at humour is not an attack on the SSPCA, it’s a satirical comment about what I suspect to be the Government’s real agenda in promoting this legislation. Holyrood has already decimated funding for biodiversity and nature conservation in Scotland. For example, they claim that SNH’s grant budget for local authorities is now being provided in the block grant, but those of us who work in the field know that a very significant proportion of these monies has been redirected and absorbed into other service accounts.)

  9. Jack Snipe……..presently the police do so little that if they did choose to take a step backwards the consequences would not be noticed. This is not intended as a criticism.

    If the SSPCA were to be given increased powers perhaps the police would not then feel the obvious pressure and scrutiny that they currently experience. Increased powers would likely promote proper joint working as it appears that a minority within the police ( wildlife crime officers) are so worried that they will loose further resources that they refuse to joint work in an attempt to protect their position.

    This situation cannot continue, serious and organised criminality that is effecting Scotland wildlife populations and the culprits being permitted to carry out without any real effort to stop it.

    The current arrangement simply doesn’t work with the police trying to making the same mistakes again and again, coming under criticism and having to defend their actions ( or lack of) by the use of the same excuses.

    1. Legal seagul, I’m sure I share your sentiments, but not sure if I get the drift of your second paragraph. My apologies if I’ve misunderstood, but it appears you may have a slightly unrealistic grasp of how the police operate. In my experience the problem is institutional and little to do with WCOs refusing to carry out joint work. They don’t really have personal freedom to decline their appointed duties, although I have come across occasional cases of individual officers lacking in experience, knowledge or confidence to carry out the job properly. That in itself is a corporate failure of training, and it certainly wasn’t helped by the Police Scotland Wildlife Crime Advisory post being deleted.

      As I’ve implied in previous comments, I’m sceptical of the Government’s intent in transferring these responsibilities to a charity (also I think it sends out a message that they don’t fully recognise wildlife crime as ‘real’ crime), and only time will tell if the SSPCA can carry out the role effectively. I agree that the performance of the police has been hopeless and radical change is required, but I’m not convinced giving legal powers to SSPCA is an appropriate remedy. However good luck to them if it goes ahead. The RSPB has an experienced Investigations Team – why not provide them with legal powers, even if only for avian related crimes? I can think of several reasons why this might not be treated as a serious suggestion by RSPB themselves, but personally I don’t see it making any less sense than the current proposal.

      The only fact which currently makes me tend towards supporting the proposal is that it appears to be scaring the shit out of the criminal element within the hunting and shooting fraternity!

  10. Jack Snipe….sounds like we are not to far apart on this, however some of your comments identify a lack of understanding of how this actually operate and if you think along these lines why would,nt any other member of the public think the same. I would like highlight the following;

    1) The sspca already have statutory powers and have for some many years (over 100) carried out criminal investigations many involving wildlife and have shown themselves to be able and professional. These powers include search warrants and seizing evidence from land and private dwellings.

    2) The police have an obvious difficulties with investigating wildlife crime and are coming under continued criticism for their inability to respond effectively why then would they not wish for another organization to be given additional powers that would assist both the wider issue and themselves.

    3) Suggesting other organizations be afforded additional powers may have a negative effect by causing concerns that if sspca are given additional powers then what is to stop other organizations seeking similar powers. ( rspb etc. are not reporting agencies and have no expertise in preparing criminal reports.

    1. Legal Eagle – With respect, I don’t quite see where my lack of understanding lies, as none of your three points actually expands my knowledge on the subject. Maybe we live in different parts of the country, but it seems your experience with SSPCA has been better than my own (almost 50 years, 30 in a professional capacity). In time I’m happy to be proved wrong, but sadly still can’t share your confidence. You seem somewhat oblivious to the political and socio-economic background, both from the perspective of the SSPCA and the Police. My suggestion about the RSPB was not wholly serious, almost tongue in cheek. Anyway, keep up the pressure and let’s hope the situation improves radically one way or another. It’s good to see strong and healthy debate going on. Let’s leave it at that. We’re on the same side really, the side of the birds. And as we’re both writing under pseudonyms, it’s possible we might even know each other!

  11. Legal Eagle,
    My understanding is that SSPCA have no direct powers. Animal Welfare legislation provided for Inspectors authorised by Scottish Government to take control of animals in distress but provided no direct powers to SSPCA. Scottish Government have authorised SSPCA staff to act as Inspectors under the legislation.
    If you feel this is incorrect could you please point out the legislation that provides for SSPCA and/or their officers to obtain search warrants or seize evidence I would be very grateful. My understanding has always been that if the SSPCA feel that there are grounds to search premises or to seize evidence then they have to persuade a Police officer to exercise their powers to do so with or without a warrant.

  12. I suffered a serious of incident with an extremely stroppy ghilly on an English river. Where the ghilly made a frequent habit of accosting canoeists and walkers using public waters and paths. The police were called in on many occasions.

    In my case, I stopped on “his” stretch of river because of a medical emergency, his reaction involved the usual shouting and bullying, along with threats of arrest and confiscation of our equipment. He declared he was a water bailiff, so, I asked to see his warrant. He proceeded to show, first, the cover of the River Guide book (this was at a distance across the river), second, as I got closer to him, he waved a tatty type written postcard, as his warrant but would not let me see it closely.

    I reported his intimidation, bullying, shouting and threatening behaviour to the police. I also pointed out that he was impersonating a Water Bailiff. The Environment Agency confirmed they new of him but that he was not a Water Bailiff.

    The police did not take any proceedings against this fellow despite his reputation and previous complaints to the police (including two of mine). They considered the threats of arrest and confiscation of my canoeing gear with contempt. Only my complaint to the chief constable got a little more action but no investigation into his criminal behaviour.

    So, the whole Countryside Killers Alliance will continue to do what they want with no regard to the natural balance of flora and fauna or consideration to the public. They are into it for their own FUN and PROFIT.

    If the SSPCA are not allowed increased powers then we as bird watchers and nature lovers must increase our vigilance and report incidents of their criminal activity.

    This whole situation STINKS along with their piles of discarded dead animals, killed for FUN but not wanted.

  13. Thank you Jack Snipe and Legal Eagle for your postings as it did much to help me begin to understand the problems faced in this area. I also agree with Douglas Malpus in as much that all examples of harassment should be reported to the police and a record kept of what follows to help exert even more pressure to bring organised wildlife criminals to account, whatever social strata they might belong too. It might help to have a data base where those subjected to harassment can record their experiences and the response of the relevant authorities to them.

  14. Secret Shooter you cant be a very good shot as you are obviously very short sighted!

    The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 is statutory legislation that empowers both police and the SSPCA with the same powers, with the exception of police being able to stop vehicles

    SCHEDULE 1Powers of inspectors and constables for Part 2

    Entry and inspection in connection with Community obligations
    1.(1) An inspector may enter and inspect any premises for…
    Entry and search where animals in distress
    2.(1) A sheriff or justice of the peace may grant…
    Entry and inspection in connection with offences
    3.(1) An inspector may, if there are reasonable grounds for…
    Entry and search etc. in connection with offences
    4.(1) A sheriff or justice of the peace may grant…
    Conditions for granting warrants
    5.(1) This paragraph is complied with in relation to premises…
    Stopping and detaining vehicles etc.
    6.(1) A constable in uniform may stop and detain a…
    Entry and search etc.: supplementary
    7.A warrant granted under a provision of this schedule remains…
    8.(1) A relevant power is exercisable only at a reasonable…
    9.(1) A relevant power is exercisable, if necessary, by using…
    10.A person exercising a relevant power must, if required, produce…
    11.(1) A relevant power includes power to take onto premises—…
    12.(1) A qualifying person must— (a) comply with any reasonable…
    13.A person exercising a relevant power in relation to unoccupied…
    Offences of obstruction
    14.(1) A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse,…
    15.(1) A person commits an offence if the person intentionally…
    Powers of constables: supplementary
    16.A constable may arrest without warrant any person whom the…
    17.The powers conferred on constables by this schedule are without…
    18.In this schedule, a “relevant power” is a power—

    As you can see there is absolutely no need for SSPCA Inspectors to request police to apply for a warrant they simply do it themselves…….

  15. But having said that the term Inspectors used in the legislation does not in itself relate to SSPCA inspectors. Section 49
    (2)In this Part, an “inspector” is, in the context of any particular provision, a person—
    (a)appointed as an inspector by the Scottish Ministers, or authorised by them, for the purposes of the provision, or
    (b)appointed as an inspector by a local authority for the purposes of the provision.

    So an RSPCA inspector only has the powers of an Inspector under the act if that officer has been appointed as an Inspector under the 2006 Act. So the question is have SSPCA Inspectors been appointed under this legislation. perhaps the answer lies in paragraph 112 of the Scottish Government Guidance on the Animal Welfare Provisions (part2) of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006……..)

    An “inspector” for the purposes of any provision of Part 2 of the Act, is a person either appointed or authorised as a inspector by the Scottish Ministers; or a person appointed as an inspector by a local authority. In practice this will mean officers of the State Veterinary Service and local authority animal health and welfare officers, employed in Trading Standards and Environmental Health Departments. Individual inspectors of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) will be authorised as “inspectors” by Scottish Ministers for the purpose of dealing with animals in distress and empowered to issue “care notices” (paragraphs 39 – 43). This will give authorised Scottish SPCA inspectors the same powers as inspectors appointed by local authorities to take possession of animals which are suffering or are in danger of suffering, and to apply to the court for a release order or a disposal order, in respect of animals which they have seized.

    So yes I agree that the legislation provides Inspectors with lots of powers (Government Inspectors rather than SSPCA Inspectors) and whilst it appears to suggest that these powers can be utilised by SSPCA Inspectors this is not the case. SSPCA Inspectors have only been authorised to use powers in relation to animals in distress and not in relation to the investigation of offences.

    But please put me right if I have failed to grasp something. I do of course still accept that my initial post was not entirely correct. I will refrain from any barbed comments in case you are able to correct me again!

  16. This line of discussion is puzzling and we could do with clarification by someone who is sure of their facts. My understanding concurs with secret shooter. If legal seagul/eagle insists he/she is still correct, then why have I spent most of my working life dealing directly with the police regarding wildlife crimes, and attended wildlife crime seminars, yet never to my recollection been advised by anyone to contact the SSPCA? Apart from crimes involving animals suffering, I’ve never known them to be involved in any other wildlife crime investigation. If legal seagul is correct, and I’m not saying otherwise, then the very fact I’ve been unaware of this for 30 years is rather worrying (is my memory letting me down?), or at least an indication that this aspect of SSPCA work has not been well publicised. Someone from RSPB Investigations, or indeed the SSPCA itself, should be able to provide a definitive answer. It’s not a point of great substance concerning the raptor debate, but surely worth clearing up to avoid distraction.

  17. I agree, not a point of great substance but given the comments sometimes posted on this site it is important I think that people do not go away with incorrect information. I too would welcome input from the SSPCA surely somebody from that organisation visits this site.
    Actually can you really imagine the SSPCA undertaking searches of property without Police attendance, especially in cases where they do not know who is on the property. They have no powers of restraint or arrest so a basic health and safety assessment would surely lead to the conclusion that they would be very wise to be accompanied by Police officers.

    1. @secret shooter
      I have no first-hand evidence but I think Scottish SPCA Inspectors and Animal Rescue Officer usually work alone, so even when they have reasonable grounds to enter and inspect premises I would assume that they would call the police. So I believe you’re right, but not just for health and safety reasons and to prevent Breach of the Peace, but for corroboration. (This is also one of the reasons why you would not normally see Constables acting alone. A short summary of corroboration:

      I’m sure there are other readers of this blog who can speak to whether SSCPA investigates wildlife crimes or not, but I believe that in some occasions they do.

      @Leagel Eagle
      “rspb etc. are not reporting agencies and have no expertise in preparing criminal reports”
      My understanding is that RSPB Scotland is actually a Specialist Reporting Agency.
      The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 describes investigating agencies as the police force and “other persons who engage, to any extent, in the investigation of crime or sudden deaths and submit reports relating to those investigations to the procurator fiscal as the Scottish Ministers may prescribe by regulations.”

      The The Disclosure (Persons engaged in the Investigation and Reporting of Crime or Sudden Deaths) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 provides a list of such investigating agencies and one of them is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (Scotland). So in my opinion technically they could submit reports to the procurator fiscal. As – to my knowledge – they have never submitted such reports it is indeed unlikely that they would have expertise in preparing prosecution reports.

      Please note that neither The 2010 Act nor the above mentioned Scottish Statutory Instrument do not confer any powers to investigative agencies, they merely describe that these bodies are investigating agencies and state two requirements: the disclosure of information to the procurator fiscal and the code of practice which such agencies have to adhere to.

  18. Good point. I sometimes worry about the psychological fitness of some of the people I know who possess guns for ‘legitimate’ reasons. In my life I’ve received several threats of violence, two separate death threats, been shot at four times, and had to defend myself physically upon being assaulted by hunters on several occasions. Usually for reprimanding them for breaking the law. On one occasion when shot at, I contacted the police and waited near the scene for over an hour, and no-one turned up! I went to the nearest police station and was told that all officers on duty had been otherwise engaged – and this happened on an urban fringe only weeks after the Dunblane massacre! Quite a liability for the SSPCA to expect their officers to intrude into the homes of potentially dangerous individuals who own firearms.

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